The first place I take a visitor from out of town is to the North Shore, so they can see that there is more to the island than just Waikiki. Locals call the North Shore “the country.”
When I crave local cuisine, I turn to Side Street Inn. The misoyaki chicken is tender and moist, the kim chee fried rice offers the perfect balance of salt and spice, and the fried pound cake with ice cream is dangerously delicious.
To escape work I hit up happy hour in Chinatown. Indigo, Bambu 2.0, thirtyninehotel and Bar 35 all have great drink specials and a hip, urban ambiance.
For complete quiet, I can hide away at The Kahala Resort. It’s only 10 minutes outside of Waikiki yet feels a world away. Afternoon tea or just a cocktail by the beach is the perfect place to unwind.
If you have to order one thing off the menu at Town, get the organic chicken. It’s brined 24 hours then pan roasted with pancetta, grapes and croutons, then tossed with tatsoi from Ma’o Farms.
Honolulu is my one stop shop for everything vintage! Check out Aloha De Nime for vintage aloha shirts and denim, Muumuu Heaven for sundresses made of out of recycled muumuu, or Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts for classically vintage aloha shirts.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I go to Rainbow Drive In for the Mix Plate. At only $7.25 you get BBQ beef, breaded mahimahi, boneless chicken, two scoops of rice, and a choice of macaroni salad or cole slaw. The plate is large enough to share between two people.
For a huge splurge, I go to Chef Mavro Restaurant. Chef Mavro, a James Beard Award winning chef, was one of the “founding fathers” of Hawaii Regional Cuisine. He is committed to working with local farmers to get the freshest ingredients possible. He’s still on top of his game, as the restaurant just received a Five-Diamond rating from AAA and was named top Gayot’s list of Top 40 restaurants in the U.S.
Photo ops on Oahu include the seven villages of Polynesia at Polynesian Cultural Center, Byodo-In Temple, Halona Blowhole, the white sand Lanikai Beach, or any beach as the sun sets.
The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Mt. Leahi (Diamond Head), Makapuu Lighthouse, Nuuanu Pali Lookout, or Mt. Tantalus.
The most random thing about Oahu is the Waikiki Spam Jam.
On Oahu, an active day outdoors involves swimming or stand-up paddle boarding at the beach, hiking or horseback riding along one of the island’s many trails, or power shopping at Ala Moana Center – the world’s largest outdoor mall.
My favorite walking route is around Ala Moana Beach Park.
Oahu’s best museum is the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
For a night of dancing, go to Pearl Ultralounge.
Liliha Bakery is the spot for late night dining.
To find out what’s going on a night or on weekends, read The Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
You can tell a lot about Oahu’s history by visiting Iolani Palace or the USS Arizona Memorial.
In the spring you should attend Lantern Floating Hawaii.
In the summer you should attend Prince Lot Hula Festival.
In the fall you should attend the Aloha Festivals.
In the winter you should go to Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
A hidden gem in Honolulu is Doris Duke’s 1937 estate, Shangri La.
For a great breakfast treat or espresso, go to the Diamond Head Marketand Grill on Monsarrat Avenue, just outside of Waikiki. Their blueberry cream cheese scones are to die for. I also love to visit the Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market on Saturdays for breakfast. Fried green tomatoes, North Shore Cattle cheeseburgers, Ohana Seafood’s salmon fried rice, and Neapolitan Pizza are among my favorites.
Just outside of Honolulu you can visit Kailua and enjoy gourmet sandwiches and daily deli selections at the Kalapawai Deli. Then you can hit Kailua Beach, and if you’re feeling adventurous, kayak to the Mokulua Islands. Rentals are available through Twogood Kayaks or Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks.
The best way to see Honolulu is to rent a car, and plan day trips to each neighborhood — from Kailua to Chinatown.
If you have kids, you won’t want to miss: Bishop Museum. The Science Adventure Center is especially popular with kids. If you are looking to swim with the dolphins, make a reservation at Sea Life Park Hawaii.
What are your favorite things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii?
Mahalo to Rebecca Pang, North America PR Manager for the Oahu Visitors Bureau for assistance with this post.
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